Feb 032009
 

I’m too young to have remembered Buddy Holly or Richie Valens, but I grew up with their music all around me. Maybe this would really be a better Mother’s Day post, because Mom’s the one who really got me interested in Rock n’ Roll (the Rock Nerd Obsession was not the desired effect, I’m sure), and Buddy Holly was mom’s favorite. She loved all the big stars of the ’50s, but she said Buddy was the one.

In eighth grade I took a History of Rock class. It was 1976, and it was a full year and counted as a real music class, even good for high school. I think that was a pretty progressive class back then, and I don’t think they offered it much more than that one time. We got to bring in records, and I loved the early part of the class because I had records I could borrow from my mom to bring in. Digging Chuck Berry was weird enough, but Buddy Holly was pretty unknown in our Jr. High; so while I was excited the only person in the room as excited as me was my teacher. We often just had conversations between the two of us with 25 other kids slack jawed or sleeping around us. He’s the one that explained how Buddy’s arrangements and studio knowledge was way ahead of the game to me. He used to say, “Man, if that plane hadn’t crashed I think you’d hear more Latino rhythms in rock ‘n roll from Richie Valens, and Buddy Holly would have done a studio masterpiece like Sgt. Pepper years before The Beatles.” He had some other theories I tend to agree with too, but I was just excited to see that Buddy was more to the world than just some old guy my mom liked.

What would today be without hearing “American Pie”? I hope this YouTube is interesting to you. I thought it was pretty cool. “American Pie” is the first 45 I ever bought with my very own money. I wrote my name all over it and told my little brother if he touched it, he was DEAD. I had other records, but they were always gifts. This one was bought with my first paper route money. I just liked the song. When I found out later it was like a rambling history of rock n roll starting off where Buddy left us, I thought it was the most profound thing I’d ever heard. I was 10, so I didn’t know what profound meant, but I knew that rock n roll meant as much to me as it did to this Don McLean guy, and Buddy Holly had probably turned us both into Rock Nerds.

I thought Rock Nerds were cool then. I know better now!

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  9 Responses to “American Pie and Stuff”

  1. Mr. Moderator

    2K, this is a real fine way to celebrate The Day the Music Died. Driving in today the local oldies station played “American Pie.” In observance of this historic day I decided to put aside my cynicism over this melodramatic song aside and see if I couldn’t recapture some of what you wrote about. I am happy to report that I could recapture some of the similar positive vibes the song gave me when I was 10 years old. Then I started appreciating nerdy musical things, like the sound of the acoustic guitar and some killer bass fills.

  2. BigSteve

    It’s so long ago, I can’t remember if I hated American Pie from the start, or if it was only after repeated exposure and hype. I always kind of felt sorry for Don McClean. That Vincent song was good, and it seemed like he might have had more good music in him, but his career got derailed by a novelty song.

    And btw a levee is supposed to be dry.

  3. 2000 Man

    I don’t think there’s very many songs that went to number one that I can still stand to listen to more than now and again every few years, and I rarely like music for nostalgia purposes, but I usually leave American Pie on when it comes on. It’s pretty good and I still remember the day I bought that record. I don’t remember the day I no longer had it, though.

    What happens to those records that used to be in the crate, and now just don’t exist anymore?

  4. dbuskirk

    Was “We Didn’t Start The Fire” Billy Joel’s attempt to write an “American Pie”?

  5. Mr. Moderator

    Now that you say so, db, I wonder if a large part of Joel’s career has been an attempt at writing an “American Pie” – from the slice-of-life “storytelling” of “Piano Man” through “Only the Good Die Young” through the failed effort you cite.

    I also think another large part of Joel’s songwriting is an attempt at assimilating as some street-smart Italian-Catholic kid.

  6. Hank Fan

    “Scratch Billy Joel and you have Howling Wolf.”

  7. […] annually each February 3. This, of course, is the day music lovers take pause to memorialize the tragic plane crash that prematurely cut short the careers of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and perhaps most tragically, […]

  8. […] The Day the Music Died. That is, the day rock ‘n roll lost Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper—and possibly sadder yet, thinks the one sober guy at a crowded bar with an acoustic performer leading a closing-time sing-along, cry-in-your-beer anthem, gained the song “American Pie.” […]

  9. […] even appreciate story songs that I can’t stand, such as Don McLean‘s “American Pie” and Billy Joel‘s “Piano Man.” The latter, for all its relative Joel merits, […]

Feb 202007
 

Townsman BigSteve reports from the heart of today’s Mardi Gras festivities.

Today is Mardi Gras. I have no grand thesis that warrants discussion, but here are some videos to help you celebrate the day. A brief video explaining the Mardi Gras Indians with photos, with the Wild Tchoupitoulas song “Meet de Boys on de Battlefront” as a soundtrack:

A TV show from a few years ago (Soundstage I think) with Professor
Longhair singing Tipitina backed by the Meters:

And here’s the big finale, Dr. John leading the band with Earl King
singing his composition Big Chief, a seasonal classic recorded by Fess, who is also featured on this number:

Enjoy! (Please note: You’ll have to fast for 40 days afterwards.)

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  7 Responses to “Show Us Your Beads”

  1. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, thanks, BigSteve! The Wild Tchopitoulas number rocked, fully! Unfortunately, the Meters/Longhair/Dr. John tunes gave me a splitting headache, due to a serious case of 1970s conga abuse. Ugh!

    But, look, seriously, would you mind sharing your vision for a New Orleans/Zydeco/Swamp Music “Gotta Have It” list? I for one could use some wise insider’s counsel on this topic.

    Thanks!

  2. mwall

    Steve, my good friend Dan Gutstein recently sent me some music you sent him on a collection called “Swamp Pop.” A few of the numbers I knew, but many I did not.

    Re this ongoing geographical discussion, would you want to clarify what specific musical elements, if any, qualify as “Swamp Pop” other than the fact of being pop from New Orleans. I’d like to know your thoughts,, and give you a chance to show off your regional knowledge.

  3. BigSteve

    But, look, seriously, would you mind sharing your vision for a New Orleans/Zydeco/Swamp Music “Gotta Have It” list? I for one could use some wise insider’s counsel on this topic.

    This is kind of a large topic to try to encompass on Ash Wednesday (“remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return”). For starters, Rhino has excellent two-CD compilations on both the Meters and Professor Longhair.

    I’m not en expert on zydeco. though I think someone else here in the Hall might be. I just have a Clifton Chenier compilation, and he’s somewhat atypical.

    As for “swamp music,” I’m going to reply separately to Mark about swamp pop, but you might want to keep an eye out for anything you can find on the Excello label, which was the home of Slim Harpo, Lightin’ Slim, Lazy lester, Whisperin’ Smith, and Lonesome Sundown. This style is known as ‘swamp blues,’ and it originates in Baton Rouge and points west.

  4. BigSteve

    Steve, my good friend Dan Gutstein recently sent me some music you sent him on a collection called “Swamp Pop.” A few of the numbers I knew, but many I did not.

    Re this ongoing geographical discussion, would you want to clarify what specific musical elements, if any, qualify as “Swamp Pop” other than the fact of being pop from New Orleans. I’d like to know your thoughts,, and give you a chance to show off your regional knowledge.

    I put together that swamp pop compilation from a number of different sources, one of which was the CD that came with the book Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues by Shane Bernard (son of Rod Bernard, singer of the swamp pop classic This Should Go On Forever).

    Swamp pop is actually not from New Orleans. I put Irma Thomas’ It’s Raining on the CD, because it borrows some of the genre’s musical characteristics, like the piano triplets. Swamp pop itself originated over in Cajun country in the southwestern part of Louisiana, and it’s basically the result of Cajun kids mixing the rock and roll and country they heard on the radio with their local heritage. There’s a very good article in the Wikipedia about it that might fill in the gaps.

    The last time I was in Lafayette Warren Storm and Johnnie Allan were still playing in clubs. The modern inheritor of the style is C.C. Adcock, whose two albums I cannot recommend highly enough. He also intermittently leads a swamp pop ‘supergroup’ called Lil Band o’ Gold, who made a very nice album too.

    For those who may be unfamiliar with the style, Sea of Love, covered by Robert Plant’s Honeydrippers, is a swamp pop classic, as is the last song on Joe Strummer’s last album, Silver and Gold (also known as Before I Grow Too Old).

  5. Mr. Moderator

    Should I get a few additional free moments in today, I’m planning on posting some if not all of BigSteve’s Swamp Pop collection. Stay tuned! I like it.

  6. I put Irma Thomas’ It’s Raining on the CD, because it borrows some of the genre’s musical characteristics, like the piano triplets.

    Hmm, interesting. Did these triplets originate with swamp pop or doo-wop? Or a seperate, third source that predates both?

  7. BigSteve

    Hmm, interesting. Did these triplets originate with swamp pop or doo-wop? Or a seperate, third source that predates both?

    I think they come from Fats Domino.

 
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